On losing so many heroines and heroes in 2016 – and telegraph poles

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First of all, I would like to express my deep sympathy to everyone who has lost close ones this year. Particularly at this festive period, I am conscious of the hell of grief many people are going through.

I’m not saying anything new here. But we seem to have lost one heck of a lot of famous icons, heroines and heroes in 2016.

The Mirror has a theory on why this is:

Between 1946 and 1964, there was a massive growth in population.
This means people in their 50s, 60s and 70s now make up a much larger percentage of the population than they did four or five decades ago.
And as a result, more of them are famous, the BBC notes.
These people, dubbed ‘baby boomers’, are reaching an age where they are more likely to develop life-threatening conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

Continue reading

RIP Rick Parfitt

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I’m so sorry to hear the news of Rick Parfitt’s passing. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

I read somewhere that his simple ambition was to be a rock star, and he certainly achieved that in spades. With his flowing blonde hair, typically covering his face as in the above photo, denim and great guitar playing, he was the archetypal rocker.

As a tribute to the great rocker I pick out “Mystery Song” here. It has a superb Parfitt lick at the start – which was reputedly honed overnight in the studio after his colleagues spiked his tea!

Now this is how you do four-part harmony!

Every Christmas I go through Sky Catch-up and download a load of stuff to watch over the break.
I downloaded “The Andy Williams Christmas Show” from Sky Arts. OK, it’s a bit tacky. But this rendition of “Winter Wonderland” by the Williams Brothers is absolutely spot on – it really is an exquisite example of four-part harmony. Andy Williams’ second tenor tends to clinch it:

Test your knowledge and ingenuity – quick quiz about a national institution

As we’re getting relaxed for the holiday season, here’s a quick quiz about a national institution. It’s not politically related but I suspect it’s on a subject dear to many readers’ hearts.

Look at the wooden box on the right. You can see that it’s nondescript, very battered and held together with insulation tape. It’s 35 years old.

It’s used to create the sounds of what could justifiably be called a “national institution”. Continue reading

Choosing one’s ideal Focus delivery tool

Last April, while delivering Focus leaflets for a by-election, I had a slight disagreement with a member of the canine community. I came off the worst, resulting in a trip to the local minor injuries department and a spectacular dressing on my finger.

Ever since that incident, I have at last listened to wiser heads who have advised using a Focus delivery tool. Continue reading

Fantastic 1969 Pick of the Pops

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This Pick of the Pops edition (particularly the first half featuring 1969) is possibly the best Pick of the Pops I have ever heard.

It includes this cluster of superb tracks:

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River
Fleetwood Mac, sounding more like “Free” – Oh Well
Jethro Tull – Sweet Dream
Harry J All Stars – Liquidator
Beatles’ double A side – Something and Come Together
Jimmy Cliff – Wonderful world, beautiful people
Melting Pot – Blue Mink
Stevie Wonder – Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday
Kenny Rogers and the First Edition – Ruby, Don’t take your love to town

The show has the slight drawback of having The Archies and Sugar, Sugar at number one, but we put up with that one for a long time in the sixties! Week after week on Top of the Pops, the BBC would show that stupid cartoon.

Paul Gambaccini is surpassing himself with his flawless, brilliant presentation of Pick of the Pops these days.

And, as he pointed out, despite Sugar, Sugar’s annoying, saccharin nature, The Archies do have the remarkable distinction of being “Britain’s biggest One Hit Wonders”.

Christmas…don’t get me started

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I wore a very red tie to a little gathering this week.

It is a very, very red tie that I reserve for Christmas.

Someone accused me of supporting “Old Labour”. Well, I am great fan of Harold Wilson. And I am normally more comfortable chatting with Labour types than Conservative types. But there it ends.

“I’m wearing red for Christmas” said I.

“Why’s that?” said my “old Labour”-accuser.

“Well, it signifies Christ’s blood, doesn’t it?”, I asked.

“Doesn’t it signify the holly berries, from “The Holly and the Ivy?”, they asked.

At that I left it. I don’t like to make a scene.

Of course, the tart reply comes to one ten minutes after the event:

“Ah, but what do the holly berries signify“?

Christmas. It’s got “Christ” in it. That’s a bit of a clue.

By all means, celebrate the end of the year, or Winterval, if you don’t believe, and by all means call it “Christmas” if you like. But you can’t deny the whole connection of the festival with Jesus Christ. That would be plain silly.

Extremely welcome news from The Gambia – ‘the marbles have spoken’

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Well, well, well. Wonders never cease. President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia has conceded defeat after the country’s Presidential Election. Those are words I never thought anyone would write. Jammeh has been President of The Gambia for 22 years. He once said he would rule for ‘a billion years’. He has recently become increasingly erratic and autocratic. Continue reading

Don’t pass by homeless/needy people on the street

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Often we get into a habit of walking past homeless/needy people sitting on the side of the street. We are told that it is wrong to give them money, so we just pass awkwardly by.

It takes a lot of courage, but with temperatures dropping, I would suggest just stopping and chatting to the next person you see in such a situation. They may ask for money – and I would suggest declining that request. But what you can do is offer to go and buy them a drink of coffee/tea/soup or a sandwich or some chocolate. Continue reading